Mythology of the Pipal tree and its importance- ancient Hindu Customs

Significance of the Pipal tree in Hindu Mythology

Seal of Pipal tree at Mohenjodaro

Seal of Pipal tree at Mohenjodaro

Ashvattha (in Sanskrit), the peepal or Pipal (Ficus Religiosa) is a very large tree. Its bark is light gray, smooth and peels in patches. Its heart-shaped leaves have long, tapering tips. The slightest breeze makes them rustle. The fruit is purple when ripe. The peepal is the first-known depicted tree in India: a seal discovered at Mohenjodaro, one of the cities of the Indus Valley Civilization.

Pipal Tree

Pipal Tree- Ficus Religiosa

The peepal is used extensively in Ayurveda. Its bark yields the tannin used in treating leather. Its leaves, when heated in ghee, are applied to cure wounds.

The Brahma Purana and the Padma Purana, relate how once, when the demons defeated the gods, Vishnu hid in the peepal. Therefore spontaneous worship to Vishnu can be offered to a peepal without needing his image or temple. The Skanda Purana also considers the peepal a symbol of Vishnu. He is believed to have been born under this tree.

In the Upanishads, the fruit of the peepal is used as an example to explain the difference between the body and the soul: the body is like the fruit which, being outside, feels and enjoys things, while the soul is like the seed, which is inside and therefore witnesses things.

According to the Skanda Purana, if one does not have a son, the peepal should be regarded as one. As long as the tree lives, the family name will continue.

Trimurti- Bramha the Creator, Vishnu-the Protector and Mahesh (Shiva)- the Moksha karaka

Trimurti- Bramha the Creator, Vishnu-the Protector and Mahesh (Shiva)- the Moksha karaka

It is believed that in the tree there reside – The  Trimurti,

  • The roots being Brahma,
  • The trunk Vishnu and
  • The leaves Shiva.

The gods are said to hold their councils under this tree and so it is associated with spiritual understanding.

The peepal is also closely linked to Krishna. In the Bhagavad Gita, he says:

“Among trees, I am the ashvattha.”

The peepal is also sacred to Buddhists, because the Buddha is believed to have attained enlightenment under it. Hence it is also called the Bodhi tree or ‘tree of enlightenment‘.

Some people are particular to touch the peepal only on a Saturday. The Brahma Purana explains why, saying that Ashvattha and Peepala were two demons who harassed people. Ashvattha would take the form of a peepal and Peepala the form of a Brahmin. The fake Brahmin would advise people to touch the tree, and as soon as they did, Ashvattha would kill them. Later they were both killed by Shani. Because of his influence, it is considered safe to touch the tree on Saturdays. Lakshmi is also believed to inhabit the tree on Saturdays. Therefore it is considered auspicious to worship it then. Women ask the tree to bless them with a son tying red thread or red cloth around its trunk or on its branches.

Women circumbulating(going round) the Pipal tree

Women circumbulating(going round) the Pipal tree

Women circumambulate the peepal tree to be blessed with children or to gain a desired thing or person. Peepal tree is planted in the temples of Shani and Hanumanji. The tree is worshipped on Saturday, especially in the month of Shravana, because goddess Lakshmi sits under the tree on this day. Any person who waters the tree is believed to earn merit for his progeny, his sorrows are redeemed and diseases cured. The peepal tree is also worshipped to escape from contagious diseases and enemies.

A peepal tree is planted to the east of the house or temple. Eight or 11 or 12 years after the tree has been planted, the upanayan ceremony is performed for the tree. A round platform is constructed around the tree. Different gods like Narayan, Vasudev, Rrukmini, Satyabhama are invoked and worshipped.

The Peepal tree is generally used to scare Shani away. It is the tree that sheltered Sita. Upon it Lord Hanuman sat and saw all the miseries of Sita. Hence this tree has a special place in the heart of Lord Hanuman or Anjeneya Swami.
To pay your respects, take a ribbon of raw thread (Kachha suta) and wrap it around the trunk while wishing that a particular problem be solved by the deities that live in the Pipal tree.

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Comments

  1. Nice Article, I need more Information on how to worship and how many Pradakshine to be done

  2. K.C.VENKATGIRI says:

    I want to do 1008 pradakshinas to the peepal tree. When it is advisable to do

  3. Ronnie Naidu says:

    We have a huge peepal tree at our home in Durban / South Africa . The tree has grown so big that it needed to be trimmed from time to time as the leaves were falling into neighbors properties ,is there any harm to doing so ? We were unaware of the significance o ths tree .

    • hi there Ronnie could you help me as i need the leaves of the peepal tree which is not found in gautang to use in prayers required

  4. Pranay Prasoon says:

    A beautiful & excellent piece of article which narrates the religious significance of one of the most sacred tree .
    A lot of thanks for providing us the valuable contents .

  5. nimisha nihar says:

    well really something nice to know n i have one in my home last 2 yrs……. and i m glad ,by the way its in a pot a small plant of peepal

  6. Such a beautiful way to explain our Hindu significance of Pepal Tree.. Thank you.

  7. Thankyou for explaining the significance of Pepal tree. Should we take rounds of the tree with slippers or without.

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